NEW DELHI: Turning the COVID-19 lockdown into an “opportunity”, highways regulator NHAI is working on a war footing to resolve disputes worth a staggering Rs 80,000 crore, besides reviewing projects to expedite work.
“During this lockdown period, we are holding five to seven video conferences every day to find resolution to disputes through reconciliation to be ready with all the ground work.
“Normally what would take months together has been done during the lockdown,” NHAI Chairman S S Sandhu, who was on an inspection of the Delhi-Meerut Expressway project when contacted him, said.
Sandhu and other top brass of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) have been on an inspection spree of projects, taking the benefit of no traffic on otherwise congested highways.
NHAI, an official said, has at least 180 cases in arbitration involving a sum of about Rs 80,000 crore.
Sandhu told that as a result of intensive meetings, NHAI is in a position to place all matters before the reconciliation committees for speedy disposal of disputes.
“Next week we are likely to take up the matters, work on which have been done, with the conciliation committees for final dispute redressal processes,” Sandhu said.
He said the exact number of cases for which work has been done cannot be assessed at the moment as multiple officials are working on different projects and the compilation will be done soon.
Out of the 180 cases involving about Rs 80,000 crore, the officials are currently working on 86 cases worth about Rs 31,000 crore, a source said.
“Work is almost complete on 33 cases with a solid ground ready for disposal of these by the reconciliation committees. These involve a sum of Rs 12,356 crore,” the source added.
Work is going on a war footing in other 43 cases involving a sum of Rs 20,000 crore, he added.
The projects under arbitration include Delhi-Agra highway section, Kishangarh-Udaipur road and Chenani-Nashri project, the official said.
The highways builders involved in these projects include ILFS Transportation, Madhucon, Gammon, HCC and Gayatri Projects, among others.
The official said once the conciliation happens, the NHAI payout will be much lesser than the amount projected now as arbitration is a long-drawn process where payout is about 25 per cent but in conciliation, whatever amount is finalised is paid immediately.
Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari has asked the ministry and NHAI officials to convert the coronavirus “crisis into opportunity”.
Preparations are afoot to re-start work on highway projects expeditiously in association with the states, while following the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Gadkari told : “I have asked NHAI to resolve all cases in three months span.”
The NHAI has achieved record 3,979 kms of highways construction in 2019-20.
The feat was achieved on the back of ambitious highways development programmes like Bharatmala Pariyojna.
The construction pace has seen a steady growth, with 3,380 kms construction in FY 2018-19.